Gov. Nixon Vetoes Bill to Limit Injured Workers’ Legal Options

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Workers’ Compensation on Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon officially vetoed a bill that would have limited the amount workers who develop debilitating illnesses due to working conditions can be compensated by employers. Though business owners called the bill a fix for a “gap” in the law, Nixon said that workers who suffer from occupational illnesses such as certain types of cancer should have the right to take their employer to court to pay their medical bills and other expenses.

As we discussed previous blog posts, including the one posted on March 14, the bill sought to include occupational illnesses among the types of medical problems covered by Missouri’s workers’ compensation system. A law passed in 2005 removed illnesses contracted at the workplace from the system, which meant that workers who contracted potentially fatal illnesses such as mesothelioma due to exposure to toxic substances on the job could sue their employers in civil court.

The prospect of being ordered to pay large damages verdicts, business leaders in Missouri sought to remove that section of the 2005 law. They also pushed to prevent injured workers from filing lawsuits against co-workers who caused their injuries unless their conduct “purposefully and dangerously” caused the harm.

It appears neither measure will be enacted into law as a result of Nixon’s veto. In a message, Nixon said that removing sickened workers’ right to sue was wrong. The move drew praise from the president of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, who said that the veto protects the rights of workers.

The Legislature is currently in its mid-term spring break. Republican lawmakers vowed to revisit the issue once the session resumes, but could have trouble gathering the necessary two-third majority in the House to override the veto.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Nixon vetoes discrimination, workers’ comp bills,” March 16, 2012

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